For the fall of 2008, the Office of Admissions expected to bring in 700 new students. But only 647 showed up when classes started in August.
“It was disappointing, to say the least,” says Kellie Laurenzi, dean of admissions.
Kellie and her team didn’t sit around wringing their hands. Along with the rest of the university, they went to work, and set about bringing in two consecutive record-setting freshman classes: 720 in the fall of 2009, and 900 this past fall.
“Most important, this growth has come without degradation of quality or diversity,” says Michael Frantz, vice president of enrollment management.
Mike says the rising interest in RMU comes from the growth the university has seen both in academics and athletics. “The maturation of a number of relatively new academic and athletic programs makes them appealing to a greater number of students,” he says. “Certainly, being in the news around March Madness the last couple of years has been helpful.”
Mike is quick to point out that one of the main reasons for the increased enrollment is the way RMU treats admissions as a team effort.
“The admissions office is blessed to have individuals across campus who understand we are a tuition-driven institution and who put great effort, well above and beyond their ‘regular’ jobs, into recruitment,” Mike says. “This extends from faculty members who meet individually with campus visitors and make calls and send e-mails to accepted students, to the entire Student Life staff who show up in force for every open house. It includes maintenance and custodial employees who ensure that we have a beautiful campus, to coaches who put winning teams on the field, which, in turn, garners much-needed attention for the university.”
All of this growth, although positive, has presented challenges. In addition to all the new students, RMU saw a 20 percent increase this year in the number of returning students who wanted to live on campus. In order to make more room, the Residence Life staff converted lounges and other residence hall gathering spaces into living spaces. The university also placed 212 students at the nearby Holiday Inn Pittsburgh Airport Hotel, including approximately 20 freshmen. Dining hours were extended and seating added in all campus eateries. And the university broke ground on a new apartment-style residence hall, Peter Salem Hall, which will open for the fall of 2011.
“It’s just a much better living-learning environment,” says John Michalenko, vice president for student life. “There is more engagement on campus. It’s a more vibrant atmosphere with greater school spirit. We've added more than 20 student organizations in the past three years, and there is much more to do on campus now.”
John says that students like the convenience that campus living provides. It’s more affordable, there are more jobs available on campus now, and more students are sticking around during the weekends, too. “The majority of our residents tell us that living on campus is convenient, for activities, sports. They like living here.”